ALEO – the acronym has a nice ring to it. Although I must confess that said organisation doesn’t yet exist, but it bloody well should.
Australia is in dire need of a united front to tackle the massive anti-environment sentiment gripping this country’s band of irresponsible and short-sighted libertarian politicians. Only yesterday I was chatting to a student in the tea room about my ‘State of South Australia’s Environment‘ talk when he asked “So, what can we do about it?”. Isn’t that the 1 per cent1 question?
Apart from the obvious: (1) keep up the pressure on bad government plans (petitions, letters, blogs, reports, e-mails), (2) don’t vote for the Coalition and (3) if you’re a scientist, place some economic or well-being value on environmental processes so that even politicians can understand that maintaining ecosystems makes good economic sense, I almost casually mentioned that we need a united front in Australia against this latest right-wing wave of anti-environmentalism.
I’ve thought about this before, but my latest conversation got me reflecting on the problem a little more – why don’t we have a united league of environmental organisations in Australia?
Let’s face it – the various environmental NGOs, state-centric organisations, lobby groups and even political parties are all over the shop when it comes to environmental policy. Yes, there are temporary coalitions (that’s ‘coalition’ with a lower-case ‘c’ – I now shudder to use that word) based on specific or local environmental issues (e.g., dumping dredge on the Great Barrier Reef), but there is no charter of agreed environmental policy issues to which the many environmental organisations represented in this country can use to lobby state and federal governments as a strong, united front.
As I see it, the problem is that despite the good work that most of these organisations do on behalf of all of us for the protection of our life-support system, there are even more points of contention that must make those with any sort of ‘green’ conscience look like a pack of squabbling camp dogs to the opposition. What’s that line? Never is the competition more fierce when the stakes are so low.
But the stakes are not low – they’re huge, and they will affect all of us, libertarian and communist, green and coal-brown alike.
While I might fundamentally disagree with many of the policies of the Greens because they are entrenched ideologies rather than evidence-based policies (like every other political party), it doesn’t mean that I should fight them tooth and nail, just so that the Coalition runs laughing all the way to the polls. Nor should I get too upset when the Australian Conservation Foundation doggedly refuses to accept the role nuclear power will play in effective climate change mitigation, just because their leader doesn’t like it. Within-organisation squabbling is even worse.
In other words, environmental organisations cannot afford to act like entrenched minor political parties if they want any real chance of taking environmental policy by the horns in this country. We need a charter of agreed principles and policies, with binding commitments not too unlike those of international agreements (e.g., Kyoto Protocol) that each signatory must promote and support. A massive league of like-minded organisations and individuals will make environmental issues mainstream ones, and will avoid the rapid vortex of extinction-driving politics we are now facing.
1The approximate percentage of our country’s budget allocated to environmental spending.